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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A MODERN MUSKETEER (1917)

Douglas Fairbanks swashed & buckled in period attire for the first time in the one-reel prologue to this otherwise contemporary comedy-adventure. He must have been encouraged with the results even if he continued playing modern D’Artagnans, like this film’s Ned Thacker, for a few more years. But why focus on this glimpse of Doug’s future when there’s so much to celebrate with the film at hand? Doug & helmer Allan Dwan come up with a winning combination of stunts & comedy as Doug goes about saving damsels in distress only to switch gears in the last act for some straight Western action. The whiff of a plot has Doug leaving his cyclone-plagued Kansas home and bumping into a sweet young thing who’s trying to avoid the attentions of a rich middle-aged rake. They all land at a lodge near the Grand Canyon where they meet up with a dastardly Indian Chief who also takes a shine to the sweet young thing. What a popular girl! The Western scenes are shot on location, not only in Grand Canyon, but also at some spectacular Native American cave dwellings and along some equally stunning buttes & riverbeds. The Western action really makes you sit up and take notice. Beautifully staged & handsomely shot, with magnificent vistas between the mountains, this has to be some of the best moviemaking being done in 1917. Heck, it’s some of the best work Dwan would do in a career that lasted into the ‘60s. The lovely restoration from Flicker Alley/Lobster seems to be missing a few bits here and there, but most of it has come down in fine shape. Watch for an impressive bit of rare nighttime shooting made on a Hopi Indian reservation.

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